Virulent Word of Mouse

June 12, 2011

The meaning of free Wi-Fi: A traveler’s vignette.

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Essays,Uncategorized — Shane Greenstein @ 10:02 pm

Abundant outlets and free Wi-Fi can improve the mood in a lonely terminal. Those outlets were meant for cleaners with vacuums, but some time ago serious road warriors began using them for their laptops and mobile devices. Free Wi-Fi simply makes those devices more useful.

Terminal 1 in the Toronto Airport contains that combination of Wi-Fi and outlets, especially the part devoted to local flights in Canada, operated by Air Canada. Last Thursday evening this terminal was sparsely populated. It served as my prison and home for a few hours.

The Wi-Fi and electricity flowed freely that day, as did the advise from strangers. This post describes what happened.

I did not try to have a day that illustrated the various meanings of free. It just happened.


May 31, 2011

The revolution will not be televised, but it might be your ring-tone

Filed under: Essays,Uncategorized — Shane Greenstein @ 5:06 pm

The revolution will not be televised. The phrase has been paraphrased many times. It has become routine, and almost safe. And it took on new meaning in popular conversation when the Arab spring erupted in Egypt and Tunisia, and the revolution really was on television — as well as You-Tube, Facebook and Twitter.

Do you know its origins?

Gil Scott Heron invented that phrase. It is the title for an angry and sardonic poem, written in the heat of youthful rebellion.  Oversimplifying, the poem tells the listener not to look to mainstream sources for the social revolution they seek. It will not be found in the slogans and routines of the existing media structures (the full text of the poem is at the end of this post).

The phrase surfaced again last week upon the news that Scott-Heron passed away. I do not know have anything profound to say about his passing. Yet, I did notice something odd about how the Internet has changed my memory of Gil Scott Heron. That is the basis for this post. Scott-Heron’s passing illustrates it.

To wit, the rise of the Internet has not changed death. Death is still not for the living. The Internet has changed one thing about death, however. It has changed the way the dead are remembered by the living.


February 11, 2011

Valuing companies: A primer

Filed under: Short observations,Uncategorized — Shane Greenstein @ 3:35 pm

How much is a company worth? I get this question so often I have grown tired of answering it. Indeed, there is no right answer.

Along comes Anders Bylund to the rescue. He has put together a very nice compendium of the debate over valuations. If you are interested, look here. The article provides a particularly thorough discussion about why the different ways to value a firm yield such different rankings, especially in high tech, where the financial position of firms looks rather different than the rest of the economy.

To be fair, Bylund focuses on how different valuations work.  He takes the typical pricing conduct, revenue patterns, and debt structures of high tech firms as a given, then shows how those typical structures play out in different valuation metrics. He does not really focus on why systematic market situations lead to mismeasurement.

That leaves open a couple questions. For a high tech audience, he left a big gap: he did not talk much about why investors place so much importance on estimates of the future revenue and earnings potential of high tech firms, even though these estimates have been shown, time and again, to be quite fragile and lacking in robustness. Or, perhaps I could say it another way: why is it that high tech firm valuations reflect investor speculation about the future even though most of that speculation lacks credibility?

Ah, questions, questions, questions. So many questions, and so little time. Let’s leave that topic for another day. Enjoy this article for now. It is good progress.

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